Okay…Reading about saving on your electricity bill is about exciting as reading the phone book. But if you stick with this through to the end, you will see how our family without a lot of expense, managed to decrease our average monthly electric bills 40% over the span of 4 years and this year alone we currently are using 28% less electricity over last year for the same time period. (Our electricity provider has an excellent customer web app that tracks our performance and our savings.)
WHERE WE CALL HOME
Of course, you need to know where you live and what your expenses are. If you have lived over a year in your house, you have a base by which to compare what you are saving. Nothing encourages more savings than seeing your current efforts resulting in dollars staying in your pocket. If you are new to your home, call your electric company and see if they have monthly usage information for your residence. If that fails, talk to your neighbors.
I was the first house built on my street, so almost all the new homeowners that followed asked me who I purchased my electricity from and what my average bills were. We were not so lucky, so we learned from the school of hard knocks. August is the hottest time of the year for us and yet despite those soaring temperatures This month we will only pay $75 for our electricity on the average billing plan. Most of the year we pay between $68 and $72 a month for our electricity. This was not always the case; when we first moved into our home our electricity usage averaged $130 to $150 a month over the year. (We live on the edge of the Texas Hill Country in an one story home sitting on a 1/3 of an acre).
EXAMINE YOUR PLAN
Look at your plan and what your provider offers. Just doing this simple step each year can save you money. Providers are always creating new plans and offerings. Some utilities have greater flexibility than other when doing so; just be advised.
We get our electricity through Reliant. We are on the “Reliant Free Weekends 12 plan” which means that ALL our electricity on the weekends is free (NO energy charge applied) from 8:00 PM Friday to 12:00AM Monday. (Note: other utilities may offer programs like this one; ask your provider what is available.) This is a great benefit to us since we both work during the week and we are largely home on the weekends. We are also on the average monthly billing and since the addition of the programmable thermostat, our average monthly bill has never been over $85 and in the early spring months has been as low as $62.
DISCIPLINE IS KEY
In order to be successful you need a plan and you need discipline to stay with the plan. For example, one of the largest chunks of electricity was washing our laundry. Since we have free electricity under our plan all weekend long, we planned and disciplined ourselves to do all our laundry and big electricity usage events from 8:00PM Friday to Sunday at midnight. The old adage of failing to plan is planning to fail holds very true in your electricity conservation efforts.
YOUR LIGHTING MATTERS
Here is a reality; you are spending money every time you turn your lights on. It also seems that turning lights on is far easier than turning them off. One of the first things we did so save on our electric bills was to replace all our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFLs) light bulbs, which were state of the art at the time. By doing this we saw a measurable drop in our bill every month. Now we have the new LED lightbulbs that have entered the market which are 90% more efficient than the incandescent. The other advantage to LEDs is that they do not put out heat (try touching an incandescent bulb after several minutes…you can’t do it). Yet after hours you can grab the LED and not feel any noticeable warmth. The other advantage beyond their incredible life span, is that LEDs also don’t “flicker” like the CFLs (a common complaint of many sensitive to fluorescent lighting). As their cost comes down and I am now in the process of converting to LED lighting in our house. Some utilities and big box stores are offering point of sale rebates/discounts which make them even more affordable. Contact your utility for information on discounts and rebates. If affordability is an issue, change your light bulbs out one room at a time from the most used to the least used room. It will make a difference on your bill. My light bulbs have paid for themselves several times over now.
The best thing we did was install the NEST thermostat, the best tool I could find to help with thermostat discipline (that we were able to get from our utility on a payment plan of $10 a month). The NEST thermostat was easy to install, easy to program, and has saved us quite a bit of money. It makes controlling our thermostat easy and we can even do it from away from our home. Doing this alone I believe is what has contributed to this year’s 25% decrease in our average monthly bill as all our other conservation practices carried over from the previous year. Normally by this time of the year our average monthly bill creeps up to the $85 threshold. The fact that for the first time this year our bill is just going up to $75 for August tells me that the NEST is working for us.
HOW WE USE OUR NEST
In the summer months (we have pets in the home), we program our NEST thermostat to cool the house to 85 degrees at 6:30 AM in the morning and when we leave for work, and we have the NEST thermostat set cool the house to 75 degrees at 3:30PM so the house is comfortable when we arrive home at 5:30 (with exceptions of Wednesdays when we telecommute). At night, we prefer it a bit cooler when we sleep so we program the thermostat cool the house to 73 degrees from 9:30PM to 5AM.
Note: It has largely been debunked by experts that you can save money by leaving your AC on all day long, or by running a ceiling fan while away will keep your house cool. Programming your thermostat to turn off while you are away from the home takes usage off the grid during the hottest part of the day when no one is home, and it has been shown that keeping your house cool all day ends up costing you more with your AC units to running all day long to keep the house cool.
NO COST LIFESTYLE CHANGES THAT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY
There are some lifestyle changes you can make (things we do in our home during the hot months) THAT WON’T COST YOU ANY MONEY and yet yield big savings:
- In the summer months, raise your thermostat by one or two degrees. We raised ours to 75 degrees and find it quite comfortable.
- Make sure you are changing your AC filter on a regular basis. If your AC is running and running and your house is not cooling, the first thing I would recommend doing is check your filter. It is amazing how a dirty filter can cost you so much money.
- If you are used to setting your thermostat even lower in the summer, try raising it incrementally over time by one degree. By doing this your body acclimatizes to a new reality and you save money.
- Avoid boiling on your stove top and avoid using your oven as much as possible. Instead, eat a lot of fresh foods and salads during the week (My wife likes hoagie night and I grill more keeping the heat outside).
- If you have weekend energy free plans like we do, then cook your large meals on the weekend so all you have to do is reheat your prepared meals on the weekend. If you don’t have an energy plan like ours, do your heavy cooking and baking in the cool of the day.
- Keep your drapes/blinds/shades closed on the sun side of your house.
- Run your dishwasher as you go to bed and set it to drip-dry so that the heat and humidity does not impact the living areas while you are using them.
Close any vents to rooms that you are not using…no sense in cooling or heating them.
- The following costs a little bit of money up front, but there is a long term payoff – Replace your lightbulbs to LED lighting or CFL lighting. Just by doing this, my average bill dropped $15 a month. Note: Many utilities offer rebates towards the purchases of these bulbs.
AVOID PHANTOM CHARGES
You have many devices in your home that use power silently without your realizing it. For the average home this adds another average $10 to $15 to your bill (depending on home and on the number of devices/appliances). If you can plug them into a power strip and turn them off when not using them, you can potentially save about $10 a month for the average house. It all adds up.
- Plug your TVs, audio sound systems and computers into power strips and turn them off at the power strip when you are not using them. TVs and computers are large power users, even when they are dormant.
- Plug all your charging devices into a power strip and turn them off when you are not using them. Even if they are not being used to charge your device, they are still sucking power.
- Look at all your devices, coffee pots, printers, ROKU, DVD players, Game Consoles, etc. If you can plug these devices into power strips and turn them off at the power strip when you are not using them to save money.
WILL THIS WORK FOR EVERYONE?
Grant you, what we do in our home may not work for everyone, as each home’s dynamic is different (ie. you have children, or you are home all day long). Also, the amount you save will depend on a variety of factors, such as the size of your house, the number of residents, ages of the residents, home usage, and ultimately your dedication to sticking to an energy conservation plan. You may not see the low bills our family sees or the savings we have achieved, however others that I have shared these principles and have adopted a conservation plane are saving money each month, some quite a bit over what they used to pay. So, maybe this gives you some ideas on how you can help reduce your utility bills. One thing’s for sure, if you do nothing, you will not see any savings